Changing a custody agreement

I’m looking for advice on how to best change my custody arrangment. My ex and I divorced last year and agreed on 50/50 custody of our two children. He remarried a year ago. After 8 weeks of marriage, he contacted me telling me that he “didn’t know how to get out of it”. Over the last year, he and his new wife have had very physical fights. According to him, she’s held a knife on him and “jumped” him. Their fights have led him to punch a hole in a door and break a bathroom vanity, although he tells me he doesn’t get physical with her during these fights because he doesn’t want to be charged with spousal abuse. From what I can tell, their fights do not happen in front of the kids. (For the record, we were married for 17 years and he never even raised his voice to me). She randomly calls me (I don’t speak to her) and has left a letter in my door, but I have yet to figure out why. She moved out in June (after he made her leave). Since then, she continues to try to contact me. She randomly shows up at his house. On one occasion, he called the sheriff to come and make her leave. Last month, she attempted suicide and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for a week. For reasons unknown to me, she is now moving back in with him. I do not feel that my children are safe around her, but he disagrees. Do I have grounds for changing our custody agreement? Without his cooperation, can I get full custody of my kids and what is they best way to do it?

Thanks for your help!

I suggest you file a motion to modify custody. These motions must allege that there has been a substantial change in circumstances affecting the best interest of the children. Your ex’s new wife moving back in, in my opinion would be considered a substantial change based on her erratic behavior and the fact that she very well may be a danger to the children.

Thanks for your reply. We live in two different counties (he is currently in Wake, I am in Johnston). Does it matter which county I file this motion in?

It should be the county in which the current order is in place.

Could you tell me what the process of changing a custody agreement typically looks like (including how long it might take) ? I’ve let my ex know that I want to make a permanent change to our agreement (there was not a court order, just a signed, notarized divorce agreement). Even though the written agreement is 50/50, during the school year the kids stay with me on school nights because he isn’t able to take them to school because of his schedule . This developed when he suddenly changed jobs at the start of the 2009-2010 school year. His new wife can’t/won’t take them either. Now that he knows I want to change the agreement, he has said he’s going to find money in his budget to pay someone to take them to school during their weeks with him so that the court won’t think that we should just formalize the arrangement we have now.
I am not trying to keep the kids from their father, only from their stepmother. I’ve offered to try to negotiate something between us, but he has made it abundantly clear he will not sign anything that reduces his time to less than 50%.
I’d like to get as much information about this process as possible, but I’m having trouble finding details. What are the factors the court will consider in changing this agreement and is there anything I should be prepared for? If this ends up in court and I get the custody I’m seeking, will the court automatically order him to pay child support? I haven’t asked for child support during the school year in the past.
Thanks again for your help.

The process begins with filing the motion, and then a hearing date will be set, depending on the county it could be within a month, or out six months. Unless your agreement is incorporated into your divorce however, you will need to file an original action for child custody since this will be the initial case before the court regarding these children.